Novak Djokovic: Searching for tennis immortality and love

The Serb is looking for that long-missing ingredient to make him equal to Roger Federer and Rafael Nadal in the hearts of tennis fans.

The Serb is looking for that long-missing ingredient to make him equal to Roger Federer and Rafael Nadal in the hearts of tennis fans.

Novak Djokovic is already a sporting legend, but he is desperately hoping he can finally become the “people’s champion” after winning a seventh Wimbledon crown on Sunday.

The Serb has long been searching for the missing ingredient to make him the equal of Roger Federer and Rafael Nadal in the hearts of tennis fans.

His four-set victory over unseeded Nick Kyrgios moved him into second place on the men’s Grand Slam all-time list with 21 titles, one behind Nadal and ahead of Federer.

Djokovic hit a blade of grass in his customary ceremony and gave his “Cup of Love” gesture to all corners of Center Court, who roared their approval for the champion.

While Federer and Nadal enjoy an almost god-like status in the game, the Serb is hard for fans to love.

By the time Djokovic won his first major in 2008, many had chosen the Swiss or Spaniard as “their man,” making him an awkward interloper.

The Serb, who left Belgrade aged 12 to train in Munich and escape NATO’s bombing of his home city, is a spikier character than the smooth, turbulent Federer or Nadal.

A fiery character

His infamous default at the 2020 US Open, a quick swipe at a ball that hit a female line judge, offered a glimpse of his fiery character.

And his personal beliefs have drawn some criticism — including his refusal to have the coronavirus vaccine, a decision that cost him a spot at this year’s Australian Open.

One argument that raised eyebrows was his belief that it was possible to change the composition of water and food through positive thinking.

Djokovic — used to battling with his opponent as well as the crowd — lost to Daniil Medvedev in last year’s US Open final.

He received hearty support from fans who wanted to fight against Medvedev, but it was to no avail as he missed out on becoming the first man since Rod Laver in 1969 to win a calendar Grand Slam.

“I’ll always remember the support and energy and love I got from the group,” he said, indicating how much it meant to him.

Time seems to be on the Serb’s side in his quest to be considered the greatest player of all time and win over fans even more.

Federer, approaching his 41st birthday, has been sidelined for a year after a knee operation, while Nadal, 36, withdrew with an abdominal injury before his semi-final at Wimbledon.

Djokovic, just a year younger than Nadal, shows no signs of losing his physical edge — if anything, he seems to be getting better with age.

But he is likely to kick his heels in time for next month’s US Open at Flushing Meadows.

Under current US law, he is not allowed to travel to play because he has not been vaccinated against Covid.

It is also unclear whether he will be able to travel to Melbourne to play at the Australian Open in January after a dispute over his vaccination status ruled him out earlier this year.

Djokovic, who has spent a record number of weeks as world number one, has cemented his place in tennis history.

To add luster to his victories, he holds winning records against both Federer and Nadal — 27-23 against the Swiss and 30-29 against the Spaniard.

Djokovic captured his first major at the Australian Open in 2008, but it was three years before he added his second.

He left gluten out of his diet, and his lean physique allowed him to pursue lost causes, making him the rubber man of tennis with a rock-steady defense.

In 2011 he enjoyed a fantastic year, winning three out of three Slams and becoming world number one for the first time.

Since then he has won at least one Grand Slam every year except 2017.

Djokovic married longtime girlfriend Jelena Ristic in July 2014 and they have two children together, a son, Stefan, and a daughter, Tara.

Father and son were pictured playing together at Wimbledon this year, but the seven-year-old was no match for future star Djokovic’s senior.

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